The calf

There are several muscles in your lower leg but, at least, you should know a little bit about two of them: the gastrocnemius and the soleus. These two form what we know as calf and are involved in activities such as walking, running, jumping … you get the idea why you should know them better.

The gastrocnemius

Origin:
1. medial head: just above medial condyle of femur
2. lateral head: just above lateral condyle of femur

Insertion: calcaneus via lateral portion of calcaneal tendon

Action:
1. plantarflex the ankle
2. knee flexion (when not weight bearing)
3. stabilizes ankle & knee when standing

Pain and symptoms associated with the Gastrocnemius muscle

– Pain in the arch of the foot
– Pain toward the outside of the back of the knee
– Pain toward the inside of the back of the knee
– Pain going down the inside of the inside of the lower leg
– Pain around the inside ankle
– Pain on the inside of the foot in the high arch

Activities that cause gastrocnemius pain and symptoms

– Walking uphill
– Climbing
– Climbing stairs
– Cycling
– Jumping
– Swimming with toes pointed (flutter kick)
– Wearing high heels
– Tight banded socks or stockings
– Using footstools and recliners that put pressure on the back of the calves
– Sitting in a chair with knees pressed against the seat
– Sleeping with the covers tucked in too tightly requiring the toes to remain in a pointed, downward position
– Immobility of the lower leg due to a cast or brace

Gastrocnemius Training

Calf raises are the classic calf-strengthening exercise. Try different foot positions (Neutral, toes facing inward, and toes facing outward) to target every angle of the gastrocnemius. 

All repetition ranges offer their own benefits, and as such, should be done in the 5-10 repetition range, the 10-20 repetition range, and the 20-30 repetition range.

The soleus

Soleus is a powerful muscle in the back part of the lower leg (the calf). It runs from just below the knee to the heel, and is involved in standing and walking. It is closely connected to the gastrocnemius muscle and some anatomists consider them to be a single muscle, the triceps surae.

Origin:
1. upper fibula
2. soleal line of tibia

Insertion: calcaneus via medial portion of calcaneal tendon

Action: plantarflex the foot

Pain and symptoms associated with the Soleus muscle

– Pain in the heel often to the point of not being able to put weight on the heel
– Pain in the ankle
– Pain in the calf sometimes extending into the back of the knee
– Deep aching in the back of the knee
– Deep pain in the low back
– Hypersensitivity to touch in the lower back
– Poor circulation in the lower legs and feet
– Pain in the jaw and on the side of the head

Activities that cause soleus muscle pain and symptoms

– Walking uphill
– Climbing
– Climbing stairs
– Cycling
– Jumping
– Wearing high heels
– Using footstools and recliners that put pressure on the back of the calves
– Immobility of the lower leg due to a cast or brace

A calf muscle tear is graded from 1 to 3, with grade 3 being the most severe.

Grade 1 symptoms

Grade 1 calf strain is a minor tear with up to 10% of the muscle fibers affected. The athlete will feel a twinge of pain in the back of the lower leg. They may be able to carry on playing or competing in mild discomfort. There is likely to be tightness and aching in the calf muscles two to five days after injury.

Grade 2 symptoms

Symptoms of a grade 2 strain will be more severe than a grade one with up to 90% of the muscle fibers torn. A sharp pain at the back of the lower leg will be felt with significant pain walking. There is likely to be swelling in the calf muscle with mild to moderate bruising. Pain will be felt on resisted plantar flexion or pushing the foot downwards against resistance. There may be tightness and aching in the calf muscle for a week or more.

Grade 3 symptoms

There will be a severe immediate pain at the back of the lower leg. The athlete will be unable to continue and unable to walk. There will be considerable bruising and swelling appearing and the athlete will be unable to even contract the calf muscle. In the case of a full rupture, often there is deformity where the muscle can be seen to be bunched up towards the top of the calf. A grade three is a near, or complete rupture of the muscle.

Soleus Training

The soleus is more involved when your legs bend so, the best way to target the soleus is with bent leg (seated) calf raises. The soleus responds well to light weight, fewer sets, and more repetitions (20-30) since it is composed mainly of slow-twitch muscle fibers.

Pro Tip:

It is important to train the calves relatively close to failure, which is 0-4 repetitions away from technical failure. They recover quickly, often requiring rest times of as little as 10 seconds and often no more than 60 seconds. Ensuring a 1-2 second pause at the top and bottom of the movement will put more emphasis on the muscle, and less emphasis on the achilles tendon.

Train your calves twice a week for a couple of months and you´ll see results that will bring new life into your legs

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Lower Back

The Erector Spinae is not just one muscle, but a bundle of muscles and tendons. Paired, they run more or less vertically. It extends throughout the lumbar, thoracic and cervical regions, and lies in the groove to the side of the vertebral column.

Latissimus Dorsi

The latissimus dorsi is the larger, flat, dorsolateral muscle on the trunk, posterior to the arm, and partly covered by the trapezius on its median dorsal region.

Deltoids

The Deltoid muscle is the muscle forming the rounded contour of the shoulder. It is divided into three portions, anterior, lateral and posterior, with the fibers having different roles due to their orientation.

Infraspinatus

The Infraspinatus muscle is one of the four rotator cuff muscles crossing the shoulder joint and is commonly injured. It is the main external rotator of the shoulder joint.

Biceps

The Biceps brachii is  actually two separate bundles of muscles (heads). The two heads of the Biceps vary in length and as a result, are called the Short and the Long Biceps heads.

Triceps

The Triceps Brachii muscles  have three muscle heads: Lateral, Medial and Long head. Primarily responsible for the extension of the elbow joint. The lateral head is used for movements requiring occasional high-intensity force, while the medial fascicle enables more precise, low-force movements.

Forearm
(Anterior muscles)

The Pronator teres pronates the forearm, turning the hand posteriorly. If the elbow is flexed to a right angle, then pronator teres will turn the hand so that the palm faces inferiorly. It is assisted in this action by pronator quadratus.

Forearm
(Posterior muscles)

The Extensor Digitorum muscle helps in the movements of the wrists and the elbows. It extends the phalanges, then the wrist, and finally the elbow. It acts principally on the proximal phalanges. It tends to separate the fingers as it extends them.

Pecs

The pectoralis major makes up the bulk of the chest muscles in the male and lies under the breast in the female.

The pectoralis minor is a thin, triangular muscle, situated at the upper part of the chest, beneath the pectoralis major. 

Abs

The Rectus Abdominis is the most superficial of the abdominal muscles. It is this muscle which forms the six-pack shape! It is a paired muscle running vertically on each side of the anterior wall of the abdomen. There are two parallel muscles, separated by a midline band of connective tissue called the linea alba.

Obliques

The External Oblique is situated on the lateral and anterior parts of the abdomen. It is broad, thin, and irregularly quadrilateral. It is the largest and the most superficial (outermost) of the three flat muscles of the lateral anterior abdomen. 

Glutes

The gluteal muscles are a group of three muscles which make up the buttocks: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. The three muscles originate from the ilium and sacrum and insert on the femur. The functions of the muscles include extension, abduction, external rotation, and internal rotation of the hip joint.

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Quadriceps

The Quadriceps Femoris is the knee extensor muscle.  As a group, the quadriceps femoris is crucial in walking, running, jumping and squatting. It´s subdivided into four separate “heads”.

Hamstrings

A hamstring is any one of the three posterior thigh muscles in between the hip and the knee (from medial to lateral: semimembranosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris). The hamstrings are quite susceptible to injury.

Lower Leg

The gastrocnemius and the soleus form what we know as calf. They are involved in activities such as walking, running, jumping… 

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Trapezius

The trapezius is a broad, flat and triangular muscle. The muscles on each side form a trapezoid shape. It is the most superficial of all the back muscles.

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